Military ephemera outside of photographs are abundant and located at many research libraries and other facilities across the United States. Familiarizing yourself with historical collections and the finding aids online at many places can make all the difference in conducting a successful search for a military ancestor.
Military Minutes contributor Michael Strauss shares his recommendations for military ephemera sources to find genealogy treasures.
The Library of Congress
The Library of Congress was created to serve the Congress of the United States. As explained last month in Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode #161, it serves as the national library of the United States. The library has millions of individual entries of photographs, film, letters, journals, diaries, and other primary material of interest to genealogists.
One research room also located in the James Madison building and open weekdays has more than 17 million books, maps, films, manuscripts, and photographs. The Prints and Photograph Division is located in the James Madison building and open weekdays and Saturdays from 8:30 AM to 5 PM. This room has in their custody more than 50,000 manuscripts available to the public. Searches in the online collection and finding aids can be found online at https://www.loc.gov/rr/mss/.
United States Army Heritage & Education Center
Another excellent source of other military ephemera located outside of Washington, DC can be found as part of the United States Army Heritage and Education Center. It is located in Carlisle, PA and has an online search catalog for manuscripts, journals, diaries, and letters covering multiple war periods. The center has an online finding aid catalog to aid researchers to find materials in their collections available at http://usawc.libguides.com/graduates_others.
Many historical societies and genealogical societies offer material that isn’t available anywhere else. Additionally, local State Archives and Libraries should be searched for ephemera in their own collections. Here are a few great resources for finding outside materials online:
This database of entries include more than 5 million records of archival materials, not only supplying the name of the repository, but the scope of the collections searched. Their material online can be searched at https://beta.worldcat.org/archivegrid.
This is the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and formally part of the Genealogy Society of Utah. It is home to millions of genealogy records that are all available for free. Searches can be done online at http://www.familysearch.org.
This is a collaborative effort of repositories and libraries that have digitized their books and manuscripts online. Begin searching at http://www.hathitrust.org.
The world’s largest library catalog of listings from tens of thousands of libraries located in multiple counties around the world. Visit http://www.worldcat.org.
Also listed as the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections. It is affiliated with the Library of Congress and promotes the access to the heritage of the United States. Searches can be done online: http://www.loc.gov/coll/nucmc.
Here are some examples of military ephemera treasures I’ve found:
Above left: Lt. Washington Brua- Courtesy of the Lebanon County Historical Society in Lebanon, PA. Above right: Pvt. John H. Waltz- Courtesy of the United States Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, PA. Images supplied by Michael Strauss.
Pennsylvania Civil War Muster Rolls, 1860-1869 (Ancestry.com). Entry includes 2 pages; just the left side is shown here.
Pennsylvania Veteran Burial Cards, 1777-2012 (Ancestry.com)
Any family historian knows that a little genealogical kindness goes a long way! We as researchers wouldn’t be able to discover these treasures if it weren’t for others sharing their finds and resources. Take a moment to share this article with anyone who may be searching for military ancestors and you just might make someone’s day!
Author: Michael Strauss, AG
Michael Strauss, AG is the principal owner of Genealogy Research Network and an Accredited Genealogist since 1995. He is a native of Pennsylvania and a resident of Utah and has been an avid genealogist for more than 30 years. Strauss holds a BA in History and is a United States Coast Guard veteran.